In his first week of office, President Trump signed several Executive Actions, among them three that directly relate to immigration. One order, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, broadens immigration enforcement priorities, making those that entered the country without inspection or overstayed a visa, and irrespective of whether or not they have a criminal record deportable. This means that someone who entered the U.S. on a valid tourist visa, for example, and overstayed and arrested for a minor infraction could be deported.
This article discusses what you can do if you are an immigrant and have been arrested, as well as some information for immigrants who may be at risk of deportation under President Trump’s announcements.
If you’ve been arrested
Inform your criminal defense attorney or public defender of your immigrant status, especially if you crossed the border or overstayed your visa. Legal permanent residents (green card holders or LPRs) may also be deported especially if they have arrests or convictions. If you are not a U.S. Citizen, you should consult with an immigration attorney to find out how you can protect yourself from deportation. A criminal lawyer’s job is to address the criminal issues and will not necessarily be taking in to account the immigration consequences which can be very severe. Do not sign or agree to anything until you have spoken to an immigration lawyer.
If you’ve had prior arrest or convictions
Under President Trump’s Executive Orders, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have been targeting LPRs with prior convictions, even if they did not serve time in jail, the case was from years ago, the case was very minor or a misdemeanor. Even longtime green card holders or those with U.S. Citizen family members have not been spared. ICE has also targeted undocumented people with prior convictions, especially if the case involved DUI, drugs, domestic violence, gun possession or child endangerment. Those who entered after January 2, 2014 are also priorities for deportation. If you are not a U.S. Citizen and have prior arrest or convictions, you should seek the help of an immigration attorney.
I’m at risk. How can I protect myself?
- Make a plan of action with your loved ones in case you are picked up by ICE. Make an extra effort to let your family know where you are and when you will be home so that they can identify your absence quickly. Also, investigate (in advance) the steps to take if your loved one is detained. (eg. which office to contact). You may also want to speak to some immigration lawyers beforehand so that you will have one ready if something happens.
- Carefully plan your contact with immigration and speak to an immigration lawyer before any contact. This includes regularly scheduled check-ins with immigration officials. Do not file to change your status, renew your green card or travel outside the U.S. without speaking with a lawyer.
- Avoid unnecessary risks that can result in interaction with the criminal justice system. For example, if you do not have a license, do not drive, avoid venues where police may interrupt the proceedings, take extra precautions for things that you may not normally have paid much attention to (eg. littering, traffic violations, drug use, altercations) You should also keep in mind that police share state fingerprints with immigration and some cities and States have agreed to use local police officers to assist with the immigration enforcement.
- Educate yourself and know that you have rights as an immigrant:
- You have the right to remain silent.
- You have the right to speak to a lawyer.
- You do not have to share any information about where you were born, your immigration status or your criminal record. Ask to speak to a lawyer instead of answering questions.
- You do not have to give your consular documents or passport unless they have a warrant from a judge.
- You do not have to sign anything.
- Click here for useful Know-Your-Rights flyers and posters in English, Spanish, French, Punjabi, Arabic, Mandarin and Haitian Creole for information on what to do if ICE comes knocking on your door.
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